The Palma Superyacht Cup – 22-25th June Rule Rules Rule! By John Burnie

Posted Nov. 12, 2016, 1:10 p.m.

The Palma Superyacht Cup – 22-25th June

Rule Rules Rule!


By John Burnie   (This complete editorial can be found at: Edition 31)


On 22nd – 25th June the 20th Edition of the Palma Superyacht Cup took place in brilliant sunshine and blue water, racing taking place as usual in the Bay of Palma. Under the steady guidance of Kate Branagh and her hard working team the Palma Superyacht Cup has quickly evolved to become one of the best superyacht events to participate in - it is today quite definitely on a par with all the top bucket events seen in other parts of the world and Kate must take much of the credit for that.

22 yachts attended this year with a broad diversity of design and style on the entry list. Despite the non – attendance of any J Class yachts (due to their program constraints regarding the imminent Americas Cup in Bermuda), the glamour of the 2016 Palma event was much enhanced by a splendid parade of sail (and some competitive sailing!) by a number of elegant classic yachts in the bay on Wednesday - the day before racing began. This was conceived and organised by the captain of Mariette, Charlie Wroe, to who we all owe a remarkable vote of thanks for bringing the impressive sight of acres of classic canvas to the bay and the line astern manoeuvres by the classic fleet had many of the crews on the practising yachts in the same area reaching for their cameras and iPhones. So as well as Charlie we must also thank all the participants for organising the “hors oeuvres” before the main event.

The Yachts that participated in the 2016 The Big Class Day Sail included the magnificent Elena, Eleonora, Naema, Moonbeam IV, Mariette, Kelpie of Falmouth, Shenandoah of Sark and Germania Nova. 

Running a Superyacht event takes an enormous amount of organisation - providing the correct venue and infrastructure is probably a key to its success. So basing the event in the picturesque Moll Vell marina area near STP adds a great deal of kudos to this event. There are fine restaurants, cafes and facilities nearby - and the old town and crew accommodation areas are all close. Sponsors have the opportunity to place tents and hospitality areas on the docks immediately behind the yachts and with a grand entrance and a fine “beer tent” the event has a carnival / race village / boat show feel emanating from its well-designed infrastructure.

In recent times Superyacht Racing organisations have embraced the ORC rating system whose officers have been quick to develop their specific superyacht rule which everyone knows as ORCsy. Trying to rate a group of such diverse yachts fairly is a tricky business and ORC representatives Paolo Masserini and Alessandro Nazereth were on hand to deal with the inevitable politics of how each yacht is rated. They and the respected principal race officer Gaspar Morey had the difficult task of placing yachts in correctly balanced classes with balanced rating bands.

The rating band and class splits were of particular interest to our crew. I had been invited to race on Sojana, a 115ft Farr design owned by the well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist and GBR sailing supporter Peter Harrison. The yacht had just been re-launched after a splendid refit at SYS in the UK having had three years out of action prior to that. This was the first time Sojana had been rated to race under ORCsy and the ORC officers were generous to a fault in helping us to establish the correct parameters to enable us to participate fairly. I have noted that in this regatta (and others I have attended) that several yachts have been accommodated in their concerns regarding rating issues and feel confident that the ORCsy rule is reasonable and fair – such rules in competent hands can only be good for the future of superyacht racing. This is much enhanced by the genial and attentive attitude being shown by the officials towards any concerns raised by the competitors - long may that last!

So the twenty two yachts participating were divided into four classes and racing began in earnest on Thursday 22nd June.  Champagne sailing conditions prevailed, if not slightly light for some of the heavier designs. The ORCsy rule allows slightly altered ratings for different sea and wind conditions so that some of the heavier boats have credit given against the lighter yachts in certain circumstances (and potentially vice versa). The bay of Palma has been the home to many regattas over the years and it would be surprising if any boat at this regatta did not have at least one crew member familiar with the tenets of wisdom regarding how it is to best sail a course there. In fact many of the yachts had familiar faces on the crew including captains of other vessels not participating. Professional racing sailors participating with the crew of a superyacht has become the norm at all superyacht regattas if not a necessity. Certainly the requirement of having an experienced safety / communications officer with a good knowledge of the racing rules of sailing on the crew has become mandatory. The Superyacht Racing Association (SYRA) has ISAF approved addendums to the racing rules including the mandatory 40m separation rule as specified. What is interesting is that following this rule’s introduction (of an experienced communications officer being required on board) there seems to be less “excessive or indulgent radio chat” as was seen at earlier regattas - and the introduction of laser range finders (appropriately sponsored by Pantaenius Insurance) has undoubtedly helped as well.

Gaspar Morey laid two courses for classes on the first days racing (sponsored by Pantaenius) with the bigger boats in class A and B challenged on a slightly longer distance of 26 miles. The yachts started in sequence at two minute intervals with the bigger classes starting first. I personally prefer this format (rather than pursuit racing) as it tends to keep yachts closer together in wind strength. In many regattas I have felt for larger yachts starting at considerably later times in a dying breeze, making it very unfair (and visa-versa where the wind has increased). In our class, (Class B), P2 and Ganesha, both starting after us in sequence, had already been noted as the competition to beat. On Sojana we had a good crew headed by the Captain Loz Marriot – and in the 30 or so people on board there were a number of Sojana regulars including Jonny Malbon, Mo Grey and Fraser Brown. Andy Beadsworth was on the helm, supported by Laurent Pages on tactics with Jim Schmicker (Farr Yacht Design) and Quinton Houry (Doyle Sails Palma) controlling the ketch rig sail plan. P2 is now in new hands having been purchased by the owner of Marie. His Captain Wes Cooper was leading his normal troupe of star sailors with Tony Rey on tactics and Paul Stanbridge on the “cat-o-nine tails” exhorting the crew to higher performance. Ganesha had their usual crew as well with designer Michael Benakis (still looking reasonably comfortable in a young man’s role) and Warwick “Wazza” Kerr (North Sails Palma) trimming the acres of North sailcloth. Despite the light air a great battle ensued with P2 and Sojana pulling away to claim 1st and 2nd respectively. Atalante showed great speed and performance upwind with a crew of experts on board including Jens Christensen (North Sails), Joachim Kieft (Claasen) and Richard Acland (Green Marine) to name but a few. Tenaz, a yacht with more cruising orientated lines drawn by Dubois, suffered heavily in the light air and was unable to finish in the time limit - causing the race officers to re-address that part of the sailing instructions. Tenaz was crewed by a range of familiar faces including Mike Joubert helming, Hugh Agnew and Gian Ahluwalia (more usually seen on Leopard) and Alexis Howard (past Captain on Windrose and Elfje) as crew boss. It was also amusing to see David Evans (more usually a Captain in the ivory tower of a Perini Navi) struggling on the foredeck with the spinnaker snuffer for a change.


When competing in your own class it is always difficult to see exactly what is happening in the other classes. The dark and elegant 31.m Southern Wind, Seawave (looking rather like a Wally yacht from a distance) seemed to be doing well on the water in Class A, particularly against Mari Cha III with an all-star crew on board including “Juggy” Clougher and “Moose” Sanderson.  But an infringement of the 40m rule between Seawave and Saudade saw both yachts penalised allowing Win Win to take top slot followed by Unfurled. Captain Adam Bateman had his regular crew racing including Campbell Field and his father Ross Field in the afterguard. Among the all-star crew sailing on the stunning white, minimalistic yacht were the evergreen Chris Mason and Steve Branagh of Palma based RSB Rigging. Amazing how these time served experts keep going!

In Class C it was heartening to see Tempus Fugit take a long deserved victory with designer Rob Humphreys on board and Lymington Sailor Dr Ben Vines on the helm. Firebird (a new Oyster 885) and the new Stay Calm (ex Nikata) gave them plenty to think about on the race course - many of the regular crew were back on board with owner Stuart Robinson on Stay Calm including Russell Peters and past Captain Jamie Small (now ashore and working with Burgess). It was good to see my old friend Captain Ruud Blanc competing well with his Dutch contingent on the classic Hoek design Heartbeat (eventually 4th in class) and it was good to see also their fellow countrymen competing hard on the elegant and well-travelled Frers designed Tulip.

In the classics in Class D, Mariette and Naema were locked in their own duels with Mariette coming out on top with highly experienced Captain Charlie Wroe still in charge. Nick Hill, often on Hyperion was Safety Officer on Germania Nova and several others like Steve Jackson were on the recently completed Naema – a long term build finally on the water.

The sun rose to usual form on the second day of racing and there were similar wind conditions with marginal change in gradient and direction. During this race some learning curve issues on Sojana caused us to relinquish our potential second place to Ganesha, with P2 racing away to a handsome win - despite our highly competitive engagement with them on the first downwind leg. Salperton was much closer (Hugh Morrison / owner of Savannah and Safety officer on board finally had some work to do!) Throughout the race the fleet were generally more engaged than the previous race which is always more interesting. Unhappily Tenaz again suffered in the light airs towards the later part of the afternoon and struggled to finish for a second day running. The order remained the same in Class A with Win Win in front of Unfurled. Tempus Fugit was pipped to the post by Kiboko Dos with the smiling Captain Ramon Pasco bringing the well-travelled 28m Southern Wind to victory in Class C and Mariette reigned supreme in Class D.

Race Day 3 (St Regis, Mardavall Race Day) saw a slight change in the weather and the clouds heralded some stronger breeze albeit the gradient wind in the North holding the surface breeze back. The race committee set a shorter course for class B, C and D with Class A rounding an extra mark to add distance. As the breeze came in towards the end of the race the conditions and shorter length suited Tenaz (given Spirit of the Regatta Prize) and they came storming in to the finish to snatch a 4th place from us - relinquishing Sojana to her worst result in the series (5th). P2 sailed strongly to snatch her third victory in a row and the overall class victory with Ganesha coming second again / second overall - Sojana held on to third overall despite the 5th in the third race. Salperton sailed well in the last race to gain a respectable third place in that race. Win Win prevailed in Class A to take victory over Unfurled and Tempus Fugit and Mariette both claimed the spoils in Class C and D respectively. P2 and Naema entertained the docking procedure after racing by having a competition to see whose cannon could create the first heart attack!

An important part of any superyacht regatta is the social aspect and this year the organisers did not disappoint. The happy hours sponsored by North Sails and Southern Spars after racing were enjoyed by all and the owner’s dinner at the ST. Regis, Mardavall was reported by our owner to be a great success. After racing on Day 2 Pendennis sponsored a paddle board race between crews - much amusement was had by the spectators - dubious tactics and skill were all brought into play. Win Win prevailed in the splashing about and were delighted to be declared overall winner of the coveted Superyacht Cup 2016 – a first full regatta victory for this yacht which has shown so much potential on the circuit since her launch.

So - another successful event for Palma and all aspects of Superyacht Racing in this part of the world seem to be in good hands and developing well under the guidance of those concerned. The sponsors of this regatta have contributed well to this development and I trust they will continue to remain a part of such a great Mediterranean event.

Again this year three young boys, Luyolo, Buhlale and Loyiso were brought over from South Africa by Marine Inspirations, ( to spend time visiting and learning all about yachting in and around Palma. During the racing they crewed on board P2, Mariette, Tenaz and Win Win so many thanks to the Owners and Captains of these yachts for their generosity in allowing these young lads the opportunity of a lifetime and the many sponsors from around Palma that contributed time and funding to help make it all happen.

We are all looking forward to the 21st edition already!


Yachts Participating:









Germania Nova






Kiboko Dos


Mari Cha III












Sea Wave




Stay Calm


Tempus Fugit








Win Win



About the author: John Burnie is a regular participant at Superyacht Regattas having competed as Safety Officer / Tactician at the Loro Piana, St Bart’s Bucket, Newport and Porto Cervo on yachts including HYPERION, WALLY B, LA BETE, CLAN V111. Contact: [email protected]


Dates for 2017 – June 21st – 24th